A well-travelled voice in news and talk radio in the prairies has fallen silent. John Himpe died of a catastrophic brain aneurysm in a Calgary hospital on Friday. He was 38.
Kerri Kawchuk, Himpe’s sister, said “we’re devastated and heartbroken.”
“John was such a beautiful son, brother, uncle and friend. To say he’ll be missed is an understatement.”
“We are all utterly heartbroken,” said Kenton Boston, Corus vice president of news & information. “Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family as they say goodbye to a remarkable man. We are all struggling with what has happened.
“John was a true gentleman, a strong journalist, an innovative leader in the radio industry and — perhaps most importantly — a true friend. He touched the day-to-day lives of all of us.”
A graduate of SAIT’s Broadcast News program, Himpe worked his way up Saskatchewan’s Rawlco radio ranks over 15 years to become the province-wide program director for interactive and then news talk radio. Himpe also became a morning voice for Regina’s CJME radio as a co-host and show producer.
Himpe made his way west to join Global News Radio 770 CHQR in Calgary as a reporter and then executive producer in the last year of his career in broadcasting.
Himpe’s work in Calgary would include curating coverage for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the Calgary Olympic plebiscite, legalization of marijuana, the study of HIV drug PrEP for use in Alberta and the sale of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
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Himpe’s curiosity, hard-working nature and storytelling skills made him an asset in any station he worked.
“With John, he had so many strengths,” said former 770 CHQR news manager Joe McFarland. “He would always go into every situation with eyes wide open. Which is great because he provided not only the story but also the context to it.”
That drive to look at a story from multiple angles and then explore those angles helped Himpe in his executive producer role at 770 CHQR.
“John knew the importance of effective, powerful radio,” said 770 CHQR show producer Andrea Montgomery. “He liked to remind that what we put on the air affected people’s hearts, homes and wallets.”
Himpe’s colleague at CJME and later in Calgary, Geoff Smith, recalled Himpe’s ongoing embrace of 21st-century technology in the news radio industry.
“He was always the first to advance new technologies, social media platforms, blogging, and that kind of thing.”
The Yorkton, Sask., native had a love for travel. After leaving a Regina radio station in 2015, Himpe crossed the Pacific Ocean to travel for five months to places like Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
Himpe documented his travels on podcast and a blog.
“For the first time in my adult life,” wrote Himpe in his first travel blog post, “I’ve been confronted with a blank canvas. There is literally nothing staring back at me. It’s an opportunity we don’t get often in life, and is one I don’t want to squander.”
Himpe would return to Japan — a country he loved — many times after that first trip.
“It was fun watching him go on his different adventures and how he’d light up about those adventures,” McFarland said.
Himpe’s travels also made him a part of a small group of people who had travelled to five Disney resorts — in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Even the move to Calgary was adventurous for Himpe, as he wrote in his personal blog.
“Let the story begin.”
Himpe is remembered by his mother Dorothy, his father John, sister Kerri (and husband Mark) Kawchuk, two nephews, a niece and a wide circle of friends and work colleagues.